Green, frugal, sustainable, simple, healthy, happy... No matter what we each call it, we come together here to support and learn from each other.

We are preserving our planet with our lifestyles. We are creating sustainable communities for our children. We are living the lives we want to live. Please join us!


All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

Join Us Here, Too

Buy Sustainably

Join us in saving our family budgets and helping our local communities thrive.

10,000 Steps

With numerous environmental, physical and emotional benefits, what are you waiting for? Let's start walking!

Green Your Insides

For your family and our planet, start greening your own home.

Great Reading

Last-Minute Gift Ideas For the Holidays: No- and Low-Cost Eco-Friendly Gifts!

Learn about the Buy Nothing New For the Holidays Challenge


It’s December 20th, and I haven’t bought a single gift for the holidays.  Am I worried?  Maybe a little bit, but I’m not stressed about it.  I have thought about it a lot, and I already know what I’ll be getting most of my friends and family.  For most, I don’t even need to leave my home!


The other day I asked readers and friends what ideas they had for no-cost gifts.  Here’s my favorite answer, from Stacey:


So, as a kid, I collected Breyer model horses. I was obsessed with them and all things horsey. Recently, I found them stored in my garage and have decided that they now need to belong to my equally horse-obsessed nieces. There are so many things right with this… I get a whole new opportunity to share my toys [I may not have excelled at this as a ... See Morekid], my nieces get something that they’ll love to play with, the garage will be less cluttered and, the best thing is that I get to share something with them that I once loved.


That brings me to….


Gift Idea #1: Gifts From Your Home, Garage, or Storage


Most of us have things around the house, and particularly stored in a box or a corner somewhere that mean something special to us – or more often than not, meant something special to us – and we can’t bare to part with it.  Books, records, dresses, coats, vases, pictures, dolls, figurines, games, tools, fishing gear, … the list continues, doesn’t it?  So why not keep it close to you, and give it to someone who will really appreciate it?  An antique means nothing in your basement.  The memories will never leave your mind, and new memories will be formed if you give it to someone who will love it.


If the object means something special to you, you might want to attach your story to the gift.  Tell the special someone about the gift, or write it down in a note:  where it came from and what it meant to you.  Think of this as part of the gift you’re giving.  Because after all, it is probably the most important part!


Here’s another great story from Julie:


One of my most treasured gifts was from my grandmother- a collection of old photos from my childhood, my mother’s childhood and even earlier ones of my grandmother as a young woman. She was able to scale back her photo closet plus give us grandkids something to treasure. She really enjoyed the process of going through and picking out ones for each of us.


Gift Idea #2: Special Keepsakes From the Heart


My grandmother always used to say that instead of waiting until she’s passed away and people attach sadness to a  special gift given in a will, she’d rather give it away now and watch people really enjoy it.  So true – it makes such a difference to hear the stories and to share the experiences!


Maybe it’s a piece of jewelry, a photograph, a work of art, an heirloom passed through generations… Share it with someone you love this year.  Make sure you tell the stories behind the gift, and make the giving of the gift truly special.  Spend the time and effort to let the person know how special this keepsake is to you, and how much you want that person to have it and treasure it.  And let it bring you closer together.


Gift Idea #3: Thoughtful Non-Material Gifts


Here’s a great list from Rachel:


1. Baby sitting someone’s kids for the evening so they can have alone time.
2. Washing someone’s car or cleaning their house – or doing any other housework errand that they can’t find the time/energy to do (like helping them tackle that overflowing mess of a closet, for example).
3. Chopping someone’s firewood.
4. Putting up someone’s Christmas lights for them.
5. The gift of your time. Actively prioritizing relationships we take for granted: ACTUALLY taking the time to spend a few hours visiting with friends that you don’t often see.


And from Risa:


6. Listening. With offer of fresh hot chocolate.


I’d add to this list:


7.   Help painting the porch

8. Gardening: pruning, planting, composting, and more

9. Setting up dad’s computer

10. A candlelight dinner for two at home


Gift Idea #4: A Coupon Book of Non-Material Gifts


Here’s another one from Julie:


One time my sister and I made a coupon booklet for my parents, with things like: a homecooked meal, mowing the lawn, a neck and back massage, being chauffeur for the day, etc.


You can certainly add kisses and hugs, as well as all the things listed in #5.


Gift Idea #5: Re-Gift


I know, it’s not super kosher to re-gift, but what else are you going to do with it?  And why not give it to someone who will appreciate it?


From Tree:


For my Father-in-Law: I regift (I know some people think its taky). Each year one of the Servicers I use through the year, sends me a lovely gourmet basket – It perfect for DH’s dad and we don’t eat that sort of stuff.


Gift Idea #6: Make Something


You don’t have much time, but sometimes things don’t take much time to make.  On Tuesday, my Mom and I are getting together to make homemade biscotti for all of our cousins.  I see it as a gift my mother and I are giving one another (spending quality time together), and a tasty gift for our family members.  Another idea?  How about a collage of meaningful photos, or a calendar made from your great trip photos or photos of your garden?


From Rob:

most things I give are homemade, and this year giving one of my turkey fryer burners to a friend who brews his own beer. LOL I don’t need two fryers anyway. And I am “remaking” clocks- one or two of them are old clocks I had sitting around, and 1 was bought at the “AS-IS” department at IKEA

From Erin:

I’ve been canning my garden bounty the last few weeks and have lots of salsa and mustard to give as gifts. I also plan to do a lot of knitted gifts again this year, but am keeping it simple with toys/ornaments for the nieces and nephews.

That brings me to…


Idea #7: Gifts From The Garden


You can’t grow anything now, sure – but you can give dried herbs or fruit, canned goods, saved seeds, and propagated plants.  Yes!  I have a cardamon plant indoors that just keeps making new shoots.  It’s too big for its pot now, so I’m going to divide a few of the shoots and re-pot them as gifts!  Or maybe you’re like me, and you have four pothos plants around your home from different cuttings at different times.  Why not give one away to someone who doesn’t have much greenery in their home?  Plus, imagine the joy of receiving a jar of homemade jam… Yum!


Idea #8: Peruse Antique Stores, Thrift Stores, and Used Book Stores

You may have cleaned out your storage units, your closets, and your garage and have little to offer from your home.  Well, go into town and have some fun going through the local antique store.  A beautiful first-edition copy of your mom’s favorite book, an awesome game you used to play as kids (maybe you can turn it into a new holiday tradition), a vintage handbag, an irresistible shawl, a tricycle, almost anything you can think of giving comes in used versions!

Idea #9: Charity Gift Cards

This is a great gift for people who don’t need or want more things, but to whom you really want to give a gift and show your appreciation and love.  If you know their favorite charity, you can make a donation in their name.  Otherwise, one of my favorites is Heifer International, where you can make a donation of goats for a family to keep for milk, or ducks for eggs, or many other things.  And one of our favorite clients is TisBest, which allows you to give a gift card (you can give it in email form), and the recipient can choose which charity to give it to.


Idea #10: A Coupon Book for Local Goods and Services


Here in Seattle, we have the Chinook Book.  I love it.  It costs $20, you can buy it from any number of local stores or charities, and it has loads of coupons for green, sustainable, and local goods and services.  I save hundreds of dollars using these coupons over the year, and it helps me support local businesses.  How about giving one to someone who are looking for an extra push to “go local” or “go green”, or someone who could use some extra coupons in their life (and who couldn’t these days?).

There are several other types of coupon books out there.  Check around or Google “coupon book” and the name of your city or state.  And the Chinook Book is also available in Portland, Denver, Silicon Valley, East Bay, and Twin Cities.


Did You Already Buy All Your Gifts?

You may have done all your shopping this year.  But did you see something on this list that is better than what you’ve bought?  Or cheaper?  So give the no- or low-cost, meaningful gift instead and take the other one back.  I bet you won’t regret it at all!


Did This List Make You Think of Some Great Gift Ideas?


Yes?  Great!!  Go do it, and please take a moment to share your ideas with the rest of us in the comments below, so we can all have more ideas!

Similar Posts:

11 comments to Last-Minute Gift Ideas For the Holidays: No- and Low-Cost Eco-Friendly Gifts!

  • Jason

    If you are buying gift cards, charity or otherwise, do not buy plastic! They are so wasteful. Plenty Magazine estimates 75M lbs of them end up in landfills every year. Give eGift cards instead. They serve the same purpose and don’t end up in the trash. is a pretty good source for all of them. If anyone has others please share.

  • becky

    a friend recently visited and brought along one of her project gifts for her children this Christmas. her kids are all grown now with homes and kitchens of their own. they often call and request old family recipes. so she’s making a recipe file box for each child. at first she thought she’d type out each recipe and print it, putting the collection in a binder. then she realized how much she now treasures those recipe cards in her own collection that were written out in her now deceased mother’s own handwriting. so she chose the file box-index card version instead. she has four children, and some sight problems, so it is truly a labor of love and i’m certain will be a gift that increases in value each year and will never end up collecting dust on some shelf in the garage. also, because her days are still quite busy, and because this is a rather large task, this will be a gift idea she can add to each year. first, the box and some favorite recipes for each child. then additional cards each year under the tree to add to the box. while we were together she pulled out “Becky’s Beans”. it was my recipe for black beans which i remember giving her over the phone years ago when phones still had cords. she insisted that i recopy it for her in my own awful handwriting. her Visit itself a gift.

  • Shyam Kapur

    This is an excellent compilation. Another source of excellent tips is TipTop’s gift collection at where there are thousands of original suggestions available to pick from. I cannot promise anything handmade or from around the house but it is still well worth a visit.

  • Excellent Post…great ideas!

    We (hubby and I) took the ‘Nothing new for Christmas’ pledge and actually followed thru (being broke helped:). Our 4 kids (ages 16-23) all bought for each other but we are spending our vacation making toffee for ourselves and to give away, along with home-made bread and jams. Plus there will be plenty of Scrabble, tile rummy, puzzles and old movies.

    Our Christmas, for the first time in years, will be relaxing and family oriented….instead of the usual last minute shopping frenzy and guilt over who got what and trying to keep things ‘even’. THANKS so much for the idea, you’ve started a tradition in our house…..and the odd thing is….our kids don’t mind.
    Who knew?

  • flying walker

    I do not like to leave the Christmas shopping at last minutes. I like to prepare them in advance. I agree with you that we should do some window shopping before Christmas season. I finish my most gift orders online. You can easily find some cheap and unique items, if you are lucky enough, you even can find some great deals. Yesterday I found the Olympus 10M digital camera sold at $20 from As a online shopper, I like this great deal. The earlier and newer the information , the better deal .
    But you still can make the last minute shopping. Wish a good luck. Happing shopping.

  • I think my best one this year is that I’m putting together a paper mache “boat building” kit for my dad. I found some directions on line and then made a kit with all the materials needed. I did have to buy a couple paintbrushes and some paint since I wasn’t sure what he had, but it’s about 90% not bought. If I’d been inspired sooner, I probably could have come up with paint and paintbrushes used at a garage sale. I’m going one step further and including enough supplies so that 3 or 4 boats can be built and I’m going to sit down and make one with him. Maybe I can get other family members involved too!

    Another idea for something to do for someone: I gave my mother a gift certificate that I would scan 200 old photos for her one year. Really a gift for us all since it’s good to have the photos backed up digitally.

  • Ruby

    My mother gave me a box with jewelry making supplies in it several years ago and this year I decided to make a few necklaces. I did not know her pearls were in that box in a medicine bottle just needing to be restrung. I looked on line and found directions to hand knot the pearls and have the beautiful champagne colored pearls ready to give my daughter for Christmas. I also dropped off things at our local Goodwill the other day and went inside. They had everything in the store half off. I found books, glass Christmas decorations, a small crystal box, and my party exchange gift in the original packaging all for $16. Since I have not bought every gift I give this year I had extra money for a party with my friends! Merry Christmas to all. Peace

  • My daughter donated to the local ASPCA and they immediately send ecards to the recipients.

  • Excellent gift ideas!
    I like to bake so I usually pack up bags of baked goodies for friends and family.
    Melt & Pour soaps and bath salts are quick, inexpensive items to make that are useful and not “cluttery” gifts.

  • This is one of the best lists I’ve ever read! I love the idea of bringing Christmas back to what it’s supposed to be, all pressure to buy buy buy, is something I just don’t care for.

  • I just saw this post – and I wrote up a post of my Christmas gifts a few days ago. I thought I’d link it, even though I’m a little late for this party. :)

Leave a Reply to Catherine




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>